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David Miller Online: In the Shadows Lies Iran

David Miller Online. In the Shadows Lies Iran.

In hindsight, it was not the cleverest of moves on the part of President Bush to publicly declare that a hard line approach would be taken against the “Axis of Evil”. It may have seemed at the time that there would be little or no ramifications for the US when the President spoke as it was in the wake of September Eleven and the world’s sympathy was very much with the American people. However times have changed and while there is still sympathy for the US for what took place on that day in 2001, Washington’s enemies do not appear to be as cowed as they once where. Not only is Washington committed to an attack on Iraq but the Axis of Evil as a whole is starting to cause the Bush Administration serious headaches.

The latest missile test by the North Koreans signals that the issue of Pyongyang’s missiles and nuclear capabilities will not be going away any time soon or quietly. It appears that the North Koreans view the war in Iraq as a prime opportunity to flex their muscle and to try and gain concessions from the US and its allies to prop up their ailing economy without the fear of a regime change. The North Koreans can only be buoyed by the news that Washington views the crisis as a regional problem and wishes to explore multilateral means towards a resolution. Although the US has deployed long range bombers to Guam, I doubt that the cronies of the Kim regime will be losing to many nights sleep.

The problem for the US is that the third and potentially most dangerous element of the Axis of Evil is starting to awaken. The U.S. and Iran have a turbulent relationship that dates back to the revolution in 1979. Successive administrations have made it clear that Iran is not only near the top of their list of adversaries but also a serious threat to the stability of the Middle East and Persian Gulf region.

Over the past few years there has been a thawing in US-Iranian relations. Iran remains on the State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism and for the past decade Iran has been considered to be the leading threat in this regard. The emergence of Osama bin Laden has deflected this attention away from Iran and since the war on terrorism was declared in 2001, Iran has hardly received a mention from US political and military figures. So why is it that Iran is suddenly back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons?

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranian nuclear program is far more advanced than Tehran had admitted and that the US or the I.A.E.A. had realised. Iran has already confirmed that it possesses two facilities but claims that the development is for civilian use and that nations have the right to embark on this course of action.

The problem has gone beyond debate and concern over the Iranian capabilities, as that is now a given fact. The problem centres on Iran’s intentions and the threat this poses to the region. The IAEA has warned that Iran is in violation of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and that the matter will have to be referred to the UN Security Council for action however it is doubtful that this will worry the Iranians. The Council is preoccupied with the war in Iraq to be effective over Iran and its nuclear facilities and even if it does act it is doubtful that it will find the unity or the strength to act effectively.

According the Bush Administration officials, such as Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, this announcement is of no surprise and is simply an example of how a state can conceal weapons of mass destruction. One can infer from this that they mean Iraq. Ms. Rice claims that the US has been concerned about Iran for a number of years now and that they have been a lone voice that has made public such concerns. For all its posturing and threats of war in Iraq, the United States will look to engage Iran in regional dialogue as it is doing with North Korea rather than launch a military strike. It is possible that in the case of Iran and North Korea, other powers would intervene or that the US armed forces would be over-stretched but that is not the real reason. The reason is that if an attack on Iraq is launched the possibility of the regime there launching WMD or even a nuclear weapon is extremely slim. This is not because they are less fanatical but simply because it is doubtful that Saddam has the means to. Iran and North Korea are just as fanatical but the difference is that they have the capability and this fear will keep the US at bay. Unless Mr. Bush is prepared to use nuclear weapons himself, then the US will not dare to embark on a fresh course of war. This is why Iran is the danger lurking in the shadows.

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